Good news! The UK‘s recycling rates are improving

29 Sep 2020
3 min read

WRAP’s latest recycling report shows that the UK is making steady improvements – but there’s still work to be done.

The UK is getting better at recycling. That’s the key takeaway from WRAP’s latest Recycling Tracker report, which surveys thousands of households to understand people’s recycling attitudes, knowledge and behaviour.

According to the report, which gathered evidenced from 5,297 households in March this year, almost nine in 10 (87%) of UK households say they recycle ‘regularly’, whereas fewer than one in 10 households (9%) say they only recycle ‘occasionally’.

Meanwhile, more than three in five (62%) of households reported extra recycling of one or more items over the past year – that’s items that they were not previously recycling, or that they were previously recycling but are now recycling more often.

Attitudes are slowly changing for the better, too. Three in five UK households believe recycling is a social norm (and these folk are also much less likely to recycle items incorrectly), while three-quarters understand and are aware of the barriers that sometimes stop them from recycling properly – the most commonly cited barrier being uncertainty about what can or can’t be recycled. Check out recycling facilities near you – including what your local council will and will not accept – here.

And all of this translates into a wider environmental outlook. Almost three quarters of those surveyed (72%) agreed with the statement ‘I am prepared to make lifestyle compromises to benefit the environment’ – that’s up from 64% in 2018. A huge leap.

However, there is still room for improvement. Uncertainty around what can be recycled means that on average, households are putting 1.5 recyclable items into the general rubbish (items such as aerosols and cleaning bottles are common offenders). Meanwhile, a lot of households (82%) are mistakenly putting one or more items into the recycling which are not accepted locally, such as plastic wrap and toothpaste tubes. Sometimes the only solution is to avoid the companies that fail to introduce recyclable wrapping. Crisp manufacturers are one of the worst offenders.

Nonetheless, the results – released to coincide with this year’s National Recycle Week – paint an encouraging picture. WRAP’s director, Peter Maddox, said: “It’s very impressive that nine out of 10 of us recycles regularly, and I’m proud to know that people who have seen the Recycle Now brand are likely to recycle more. However we still have a way to go in terms of correctly identifying what can and cannot be recycled. With the support of our partners, this year including commercial partners for the first time, we aim to make Recycle Week 2020 the biggest and best yet – resulting in an increase in higher performing recyclers.”

How do your recycling habits stack up? Make sure you’re recycling as efficiently as you can be with our guide to recycling properly at home, and learn about exactly what happens to your recycling once you’ve done your bit.

The bottom line

It’s great news that the UK is getting better at recycling. Taking the time to make sure you’re recycling properly means you’re helping to conserve energy and water, keep valuable materials in use and minimise the amount of waste that ends up in landfills. But as the report shows, there’s definitely some room for improvement. Check out the resources mentioned above to make sure you’re recycling right.



The information in this article was correct at the time of writing and is provided for guidance only. Please see the full disclaimer in our terms and conditions.

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